Book Club Discussion: The Reason I Jump, Questions 1-10

reasonHas anyone picked this book up yet?

It is a series of questions and answers that author, Naoki Higashida, who was 13 years old at the time of writing the book, addresses about what it’s like to have autism.  Naoki was (is?) mostly nonverbal, so his mother developed an alphabet chart, and he composes his thoughts by pointing to letters that spell words.  The entire book was written this way.  Question One in the book is “How are you writing these sentences?”, where he describes his process.

The thoughts that struck me were that using this rather low-tech process allowed him to “anchor” his words, words that might escape him if he tried to speak them.  Also, he reflects on the necessity of self-expression being the essence of truly being human.  What a compelling thought.

Question Three is “Why do you ask the same questions over and over?”  One of The Boy’s oldest friends does this almost incessantly, and The Boy himself likes to do this from time to time, so I was curious about this.  Naoki describes his thoughts as not being linear like those of a neuro-typical person, but more like balls in a ball pit, so that asking the same question over and over helps him arrive back to the memory of the answer the last time he heard it.  The next part of his answer resonated with me — Naoki said that it also allows him to “play with words”.  This is one of The Boy’s favorite things – he loves puns and jokes that have to do with words even homophones and homonyms.  Naoki said that asking repeated questions that he does know the answer to can be like “playing catch”, having fun “playing with sound and rhythm.”

Question Four was similar: “Why do you echo questions back at the asker?” and Naoki responded that doing so was a way of “sifting through memories to pick up clues about what the questioner is asking”, so that he can select the correct “memory picture” that answers the question.  In other words, it’s a processing technique, and it echoes the idea of people with autism thinking in pictures.

Responding to Question Seven, “Why do you speak in that peculiar way?”, Naoki describes it as a “gap” between what he’s thinking and saying because he can only access certain words at that time.  He goes on to say that he may sound strange when he’s reading aloud because he cannot imagine the story while reading it. This, THIS is why I still read to my son at age 11, and why comprehension is difficult but fluency is a breeze!!

The next few questions deal with conversation, and why it so difficult for people with autism to converse.  In Naoki’s case, he describes it as a “flood of words,” and words “escaping” when it is his turn to speak.  He also asks us not to “assume that every word we say is what we intended,” because sometimes the words that can be accessed are not the correct ones, but they come out anyway.  He explains a great lack of control, and anxiety about how he is perceived.  He ends this section by asking, “Can you imagine how your life would be if you couldn’t talk?” and what I think he means is that not having the control of your own brain and body to make yourself understood is extremely isolating and frustrating.

What are your thoughts on this section of the book?  Were there any revelations for you?  Please share below.  I can’t wait to hear what you think!

Book Club: The Reason I Jump

I watched a Daily Show clip this week, and almost immediately ordered the book being discussed.  In fact, I paused the clip about 15 seconds in to do so.  I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a big reader about autism.  I live it, so I don’t necessarily need to read about someone else’s trials and tribulations.  That may seem glib, but there’s a limit, you know?

reasonAnyway, something in this interview, and perhaps it was that I respect Jon Stewart so much for what he has done for raising funds for autism, or the fact that the author being interviewed (David Mitchell, who didn’t write the book, but made it happen) also has a son with autism, but whatever it was, this book seemed compelling.

I think all of us with children on the spectrum would give our own various body parts just to know what our children are thinking, what is going on in that brain of theirs…

And this book was written by a 13 year old Japanese boy with autism, Naoki Higashida, about autism, and about what it is like to be on the spectrum.

I’ve ordered my copy, and will post some book-clubby type posts on my facebook page coming up if you are interested.  They’ll start Wednesday, October 7th – does that give you enough time to get a copy and start reading?  I hope so.  I can’t wait to start reading!